When asked the secret of his legendary longevity and success, the great Negro League pitcher and home-spun sage Satchel Paige advised, “Don’t look back—something may be gaining on you.” His wisdom is both profound and obvious. We can neither change the past nor predict the future; all we ever really have is the current moment.
Yet who has not succumbed to the temptation to look back? As William Faulkner once noted, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t really even past.” Our history often pursues us. Sometimes it plays a positive role in our lives, offering us instructive lessons. Sometimes it takes the form of harmless nostalgia. And sometimes the pull of the past can be devastating.
In this week’s portion, Vayera, God destroys the wicked cities of
Why does she look back—and why is she transformed into salt? As usual, our Sages offer varying interpretations. In their debate over the fate of
Rashi points to salt’s essential quality as a preservative. Just as salt prevents things (like food) from changing, so did Lot’s wife sin through her inability to change, to separate herself from the immorality of the surrounding culture. By contrast, Nahmanides is more generous in his appraisal. His commentary suggests that Lot’s wife struggled to leave
Why are we drawn back into the past? Sometimes we prefer our well-established and deeply ensconced routines to new challenges, even when we recognize the necessity of change. Other times, we are compelled by the legitimate pull of old and beloved ties. And often it is a complicated combination of these and many other factors.
This week, try thinking seriously about your past and your attitude toward it. When is it helpful to look back? When—as suggested by Satchel Paige and the story of
May your week bring insights, answers, and an abundance of good questions.